Launch day..

On Monday 15th of July 2013 at 10:30AM the Senator Ninoy Aquino Municipal Police  launched the Philippine National Police – Information and Technology Program (PNP – ITP) for Indigenous People – the Literacy program was launched in a small village two kilometers North of Senator Ninoy Aquino, known locally as Kulaman. The Manobo people live in villages on their homelands high in the mountains (850m above sea level), the location is pristine, however beautiful scenery alone does not provide the elements to flourish in the 21st century.

Map of Southern Mindanao

Map of Southern Mindanao, Kulaman (yellow Pin)

Nearly 100 people were present at the launch, including representatives from the local Philippine National Police station, the local Barangay officials, the Local Government Authority, the Education Department (Alternative Learning System) and a large group of Manobo people.

Policewoman Melinda Rosal opening the program

Policewoman Melinda Rosal opening the program

The launching ceremony was hosted by PNP Policewoman Melinda Rosal (project coordinator), she outlined the objectives of program and welcomed everyone to the event. The gathering was then addressed by the Chief of Police who received the Learning Resources from Desmond Elliott, officially opening the project. This was followed by addresses by the Barangay Captain, Department of Education (Alternative Learning Unit), Nelia Elliott (EFL Teacher/Educator). The program is unique in the Philippines  it is one of the first programs to be undertaken with the support of the Philippine National Police on ITP emphasizing the need to adhere to Philippine law throughout the lectures and program.  The PNP in isolation is choosing to develop this as pilot program as part of a community policing and assistance initiative.

As the group came together it was heartwarming to see the Monobo people smiling, rendering their native dances accompanied by the bamboo guitar obviously pleased to be offered such an experience. “Remember these people have been forgotten due to lack of funding and local resources, efforts by humanitarian groups are the only possible option for assistance”. The alternative for them is bleak as they suffer more and more as Climate Change saps the natural resources from around them.

Nelia warms up the crowd

Nelia’s “warmup” to “break the ice” before the program!

Nelia provided a “warm up” before the launch with a lesson in literacy, a singing and action lesson introducing the English language, the audience were soon at ease, singing and dancing ready for the official opening. It was a lot of fun and was well received.

Coconut seedlings for sustainable living practice

Coconut seedlings for sustainable living practice

To introduce the sustainable living program included in phase two of the program, the  coconut seedlings will be planted in the Manobo community. The seedlings were prepared and nurtured by a local farmer (Koy Koy Rosal) he presented the seedlings to several members of the group. He will be assisting in the lifestyle program, teaching better methods of growing food and introducing new food crops for long term improvements to health and nutrition and well being.

Desmond presents uniforms to the students

Desmond presents uniforms to the students

Desmond presented students with a uniform linking the project and Manobo people with the the resources provided by the South Pacific School Aid, Inc, Adelaide, South Australia. As we chose the resources to take to the Philippines, uniforms were an afterthought… they just happened to be the central focus at launch day!

Desmond addressed the gathering explaining how his lifelong wish to carry on the humanitarian work of his grandfather and his wish to empower women, educate children and put poverty behind them had finally come true. He thanked the people for accepting the challenge. Nelia translated his address to Tagalog and he was applauded for making the program possible. The Manobo responded promising to make full use of the opportunity.

School time for the Manobo...

Ready for the Literacy challenge

The students wear their new Pembroke School and Kadina High School Uniforms with pride, we asked them to wear these for the duration of the program. This will unite them as a learning group and with the Manobo community. The learning resources were well received and as one police officer stated “the uniforms will be treasured by these people as a status symbol within the tribal hierarchy”. The high quality of the uniforms means we will see them as their cherished possession for a long time.

Sharing a well earned meal!

Sharing a well earned meal!

The official launch was followed by a special meal prepared by the Manobo people and served by the police and local volunteers. Everyone enjoyed rice, chicken and vegetables cooked over an open fire in steel pots. Sharing a meal together is a tradition of the Manobo people. Sharing a meal is important to the Manobo, much like sharing knowledge to western societies. We could all learn much from sharing our basic needs as we struggle to find resources to purchase our next electronic gadget.